The union of W. Robins Brice and Leslie Barry Davidson in 2003 resulted from a series of commonalities that brought the two of them together. They were marginally acquainted because their sons were friends when growing up. They both lost their previous spouses only seven months apart. They lived in the same neighborhood. They are both established professionals who love books, travel, entertaining, cooking, animals and family time. And their home reflects their camaraderie on all these levels.
When the couple started to look for a home, they found a lot nearby where the previous house had already been demolished, and began to design their forever home. They didn’t have to look far for a designer and architect: Leslie has been in business as an architect for 37 years and is president of her own firm.
“I was thrilled to have Leslie design our home, and lucky for her, I understand very well the value of compromise,” said Robins, an attorney at The Caroline Center for Dispute Resolution who specializes in mediation and arbitration.
As in any custom build, Leslie was focused on several key elements in her role as architect: maximizing space and budget, achieving the desired aesthetic and showcasing the family’s personality.
The home’s lot is city-sized, which means it is not overly large — 60 feet by 120 feet. Leslie explained, “To build a good-sized home on a lot this size and shape, you must give up privacy or find ways to be creative in order to achieve a retreat-style aesthetic.” They have a corner lot, so the couple decided to situate the house facing east rather than west and install a wall around their garden to afford a bit more seclusion. They decided on a linear shape to maximize space.
The couple’s travels to favorite national parks served as inspiration for their aesthetic choices. Specifically, rustic lodges with an Americana feel. “It’s where we are comfortable,” explained Leslie. “We enjoy environments that revere and evoke an appreciation for nature and the natural world. We wanted our home to reflect that.” And like the lodges the couple love, their home has an abundance of wood, stone, high ceilings and natural light. Natural materials surround the dwelling inside and out.
The wood of a beautiful warm Douglas fir forms the doors and windows, and as well, many of the ceilings and beams, while the vintage oak floor sports a darker stain. The stone selections reflect the “greige” tones truly reminiscent of mountain cottage hideaways. The couple steered clear of the more common white, hill-country limestone, opting instead for a darker blend of stones from Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Oklahoma, with about 10 percent of the stone from Texas. The stone floor is a brushed, finished Mongolian slate that blends perfectly with the stone walls and fireplaces. Rich, deep green veins run through the soft green marble countertops. An even softer shade of sage ties each room to the next evoking a forest-like environment.
The most naturally rustic finish in the home can be found in the powder bath, which is literally paneled with bark. Whole pieces of bark were unrolled onto plywood backing and installed as “wallpaper.” The result is breathtaking and unique.
All of the large common areas accommodate their blended family and love of entertaining. In the Big Room, the ceilings soar to 25 feet. To avoid creating a closed-in feeling with such high walls, they punched out windows in the upstairs hallway that are framed with farm house shutters—“Juliet windows,” said Robins — that can be opened or closed to accommodate for noise levels or light.
The breakfast room and kitchen just off the Big Room are articulated by pass-throughs and counters to provide extra seating or more serving space. The butler’s pantry permits even more efficiency during events.
Leslie said, “Because we have friends and family here often, we know they always want to be near the kitchen, so we opened up the spaces like something you’d find in a vacation home.” Each area facilitates function and comfort. There is ample seating and room to move about.
Since the couple frequently cooks together Leslie and Rob collaborated on the kitchen. He explained that the kitchens were small in their other homes. Now when they cook together, they don’t bump into one another and they have room for family and friends to gather round.
Another design consideration was accommodating the couple’s massive library. The two are avid readers and both came to the marriage with extensive book collections. Almost every room is designed with built-in bookshelves. In the formal library, which features a grand piano, window seats and comfortable chairs for reading, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and cabinets grace the walls. As a custom finish, the bottom shelves are lit and tilted to better display Bibles, hymnals and reference books.
Next to the library is the couple’s study where they each have a desk and shelves for books they are currently working from or reading. In the breakfast room are housed the cookbooks; in the Big Room are the couple’s fiction and gardening books; in the upstairs gallery, along with an impressive magnet collection from their travels, are the couple’s photo albums, travel books and travel journals; and in the grandchildren’s playroom is a collection of children’s books compiled from both Robins’ and Leslie’s childhoods and books from when their children were young.
“The bookshelves were an integral part of my design,” said Leslie. “I wanted them to be at once architectural, functional and pleasant. Along with the color palette, the bookshelves bind the spaces together.”
The size and shape of the dining room was a special consideration of the design. Not only did the room need to be big enough for a table that seats 12 (or 16 with the extra leaf), it also needed to accommodate and showcase the other furniture. Every piece of furniture and art in the room is an heirloom from Leslie’s mother. Each is exquisite, and the room’s design highlights the treasures. The room also features a beautiful chandelier and fireplace, one of the home’s five.
The master bedroom, too, has custom touches. Just outside the bedroom is a reading nook where one can either get up early or stay up late reading without bothering the other. The gentleman’s closet also has a second entrance much for the same reason. He can actually get up in the morning, read, shower, shave and dress without ever having to disturb his wife, who may have a chance to sleep in.
Another special feature of this home is the guest space. Though they do have guest rooms in the main house, there is space above the garage with its own entrance, sitting room and kitchen for out-of-town visitors. Guests are free to visit with the family, while maintaining a level of privacy and ease of entry and exit.
The couple achieved their goals in the design and execution of their dream home. In addition to building a spacious home, they’ve successfully integrated their personality as a family and their love of nature. “This home is truly representative of us as a couple. It is our refuge, our lodge. We can come home and be who we really are.”
Top Image: The Big Room of this home features stone from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas, including a custom fireplace surround. Additional warmth and the “lodge” aesthetic come from the Douglas Fir plain sawn beams and vertical grain Douglas Fir ceiling boards. The slate floors are from Thorntree. The family dog Emma is the official greeter.
Architecture and Interior Design:
Barry Davidson Architects, AIA
Stephen Friedman, Pyramid Construction
Consulting Structural Engineer:
Structural Consultants, Joe Monteith